Tag Archives: poetry

Messing with Sonnets

There is an elegance to the sonnet form that has always appealed to me. However, the origin of the sonnet has other things going on besides the structure and rhyme on the page. The Petrarchan sonnet is about the unobtainable, idealised beloved. It’s something Shakespeare both works with and pushes back against. It’s very much part of the poetic tradition of man as poet and woman as muse – something that has long frustrated me about older writing, and that drove me round the bend with Graves’ The White Goddess.

Most of us first encounter sonnet form through Shakespeare, and I think there’s a pull to that kind of language while writing sonnets. Part of the way through writing the one below, it struck me that I really want to work with the kind of language that seems out of place in a poem of this shape. I’ll be exploring that in the future.

I’ve already got a bit of a thing going around deliberately unromantic poetry, and this is certainly one of those…

 

A Challenge

Give me the lust that dares to speak its name

Bring me the joy of confident desire

The longing that refuses to know shame

The lips that gasp, the skin that seems on fire.

I have no time for guilt or reluctance

If wanting proves submissive unto fear

There’s more to this than getting in your pants,

Informed consent is something I hold dear.

Seduction holds no temptation for me

I shall not be your reason for betrayal

A willing gift of self would be the key

To love on other terms would be to fail.

I am not here to bring about your fall,

Come willingly, or do not come at all.


Druidry and Poetry

We tend to think of poetry as a ‘Druid thing’ because of its association with historical bards, and the way in which modern Druidry holds the bard path within it. There’s a lot we don’t know about historical bards and how that related to Druidry, and that’s an issue for another time, perhaps. What I find much more interesting is the way in which a modern Druid can use poetry.

Poetry impacts on the brain in a different way from prose writing. It’s more like how we respond to music. The science is out there if you hit the search engines. What it means for a Druid is that poetry gets in differently. It is a better vehicle sometimes for arousing empathy and engaging people’s emotions. It can get you passed another person’s blocks and defences to touch them in ways they might have resisted had you come in with regular speech or prose.

And if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is!

It raises some interesting questions about the way rhyming verses so often feature in spells. What are we doing to ourselves when we do that? Is that act of making an intention into a verse impacting on our brains in some way? I suspect so, but to the best of my knowledge no one is studying the science of poetry in spells as yet.

Poetry can be a lot easier to remember than regular text. If there are rhymes and rhythms, they prompt us to recall them more readily. There are things about sound and rhythm here that speak to us in deeper ways than the words themselves. There’s something powerful and impressive about recalling from memory, and that poetry can make this easier doesn’t diminish the impact at all. A poem quoted from memory seems more powerful to me than a segment of script or a book quote.

Despite all the research, our brains remain wondrous, mysterious things whose functioning we have barely begun to explore. Poetry seems to be as ancient as civilizations, suggesting that our ancestors knew that approaching language in this way has power. It’s a way of stepping out of regular conversation and exchange and into some other realm of heightened sensibility and sensitivity. We may be taken outside of ourselves, or more fully into ourselves. We may be transformed through metaphor and allusion to other lives, forms, ways of seeing and being.

To read, write or speak poetry is to perform magic on ourselves.


Performance magic

Sometimes, when you take a piece out and perform it, it does not go as planned. Sometimes, there is magic in the moment and the whole nature of the piece and your relationship with it can change. I’m not talking here about things that go wrong, or things that come up when you are under-prepared, but the way in which a space, an audience or an atmosphere can radically change a piece.

When you learn and practice a piece – be that a song, story, tune or poem – you’ll bring certain emotional tones to it. Much of what you bring will be about your feelings for the piece itself and what it evokes in you. Context can shift that – the mood of an audience, the impact of the performance space and so forth. I’ve done a little bit of singing in churches and those are massively unpredictable spaces for me, and I’m never sure how that kind of setting will shift how I perform.

The acoustics of a place can have considerable impact on performance. The differences between singing in a cave, and in a windy field are enormous. Some places invite you to slow down, to linger, while others encourage livelier performances. Some places you can use your voice quietly and still be heard. Some performance spaces can only be shouted into. This can mean you are working against the vibe of your piece, but sometimes it’s a magical shift that brings the material alive in new ways.

Sometimes it’s all about the audience. It’s effective to dig in with whatever suits the collective mood. Some audiences don’t respond well to certain tones and feelings. The feminist fury that gets you a ‘hell yes’ in one place may fall in awkward silence in another. Some audiences respond well to bawdy humour, others less so. The presence of a child in a room can encourage you to skip hastily over some kinds of detail.

One of my best audience moments was in a poem where I made a joke about bestiality, and the one dog in the room picked that moment to emit one loud bark!

I find it’s best not to fight these things. Going with what happens in a space, in a moment, with an audience gets powerful results, while fighting it seldom works.


The New Clothes – a poem

We nod and agree that the Emperor

Is wearing exquisite clothes.

The best clothes.

He’s the most fashionable Emperor

We’ve ever been blessed with.

We love him.

We nod, and agree that if we are poor

It is our fault for not trying harder.

The Emperor says we would all be wealthy

If we weren’t so lazy.

When we die on waiting lists

Die on trolleys outside A&E

Die because the drugs are too expensive

For the likes of us, we nod, and agree

That the Emperor is not to blame.

We should have chosen healthier lifestyles.

When our children are driven to suicide

By the Emperor’s new exam strategy

And those who survive can’t find work enough

To live on and will never own homes

We nod, and agree when the Emperor says

It is because of foreign people.

The Emperor’s new Brexit is going well

These are the sunny uplands and if

We aren’t living the dream, we have

Only ourselves to blame – that and the Remoaners

Who ruin it all with their negativity.

We nod, and agree that it is their fault, and our fault.

The Emperor cannot be blamed if we refuse

To fulfil our true potential.

Where is our heroic urge to die trying?

Why do we not sacrifice ourselves

For the greater good? It is such a small thing to ask.

The Emperor stands before us in his

Staggeringly expensive and truly impressive new clothes

And tells us to try harder. We nod and agree.

What do we know?

No one wants to admit they can’t see his remarkable suit

Can see his sagging Y fronts while everyone else

Sees what they are told to see.

We dare not, must not say we have wondered

If the Emperor knows full well he stands before us

In just his pants while his propaganda squad

Fawn over the elegant cut of his fictional suit.

We’ve all seen him smiling.

What if the Emperor knows full well

He has no clothes on

But if we nod and agree with this

We’ll nod and agree with anything

We don’t want to look like fools or failures.

Nod and agree, suffer willingly

Work harder for our most beloved Emperor

In his oh so beautiful new clothes.


Coffee Traveller – A Review

Clink Street Publishing approached me to see if I’d like to be part of the book tour for Coffee Traveller, and so here I am!

This is an interesting book, a mix of poetry, philosophy, wisdom and romance. I read it all in one go as it’s quite a small book, but on the whole I think it’s the sort of thing you might want to just dip in and out of. There are some breathtakingly good ideas in here. There’s depth to the observation and the writer has clearly done a lot reflecting and pondering. These are writings that were not originally created with the intention of publishing a book. It will be interesting to see if Fahad Ben G goes on to do something more deliberate – this is a writer with a lot of potential I think.

My guess is that this is an author for whom English is not the first language. Most of the time this has the wonderful effect of making the familiar less so – turns of phrase, ways of deploying words, oddities of grammar that I rather enjoyed. The cadence of the writing is different, and there’s a freshness to that most of the time. I do think the book would have benefited from some sensitive editing however. It’s difficult working with more poetic language as an editor, but I can say with confidence that it is possible to edit poetry and that a dialogue with an author about intent can be very productive.

Much of this book is concerned with the aftermath of romance. Some of it is about travel and cities the author has experienced, and there’s a lot of philosophy about life and how to get on with it and what to make of it. I enjoyed the philosophy most. There is a little bit of coffee.

You can find the book here – https://www.amazon.com/Coffee-Traveller-Fahad-Ben-G/dp/1913136388


Please stop trying to save me – a poem

Please stop trying to save me

 

What if I am not wrong, just different?

What if I do not need changing, fixing,

Healing, rescuing, improving, sorting out,

Toughening up?

In just the way that spiderwebs and flower petals

Do not need to be other than they are.

I might be fragile, but it is a quality valued in glassware

And butterflies.

I may be sensitive down to my nerve endings

Like the fine tips of roots and shoots

Or a wolf’s sense of smell.

I have been wounded, my body a fracked landscape

But you don’t mend that by demanding

I learn to better tolerate being fracked.

You don’t make me more well if you tell me

I am not good enough right now, if you

Have to tinker with me, recreate me in the way

You think I should be, over-writing the truth of me

With some story that suits you better.

Some way of being in the world that may

Tidy me into other people’s convenience, but makes me

Less myself, smaller than before so that

The next person can come along to see the damage

And decide what should be cut off now

In order to save me from myself.

What if I would never have been damaged at all

Without the people who wanted to repair me

In the manner of their choosing?

What if all I ever needed was kindness

And the space to live out my own difference?


Anti-romantic poetry

All those heart metaphors

 

I wore my heart on my sleeve for you.

I spilled my guts.

 

I put my spleen on my shoulder

Was that helpful?

I draped my lungs over my ears,

Put my liver in the upturned cuff

Of my trousers,

Wore my pancreas on my wrist.

 

Do I make sense now?

Can you read my entrails?

Is the hollow place under my ribs

Understandable? Clearer?

Do you need to see all my bones?

 

Is honesty the exposed inner workings

Or was it the mysterious whole?

Where’s the true layer?

What should we dig down to?

 

I put my heart on my sleeve for you.

Just offal and mess, it turns out

And not much good at all.

 

(I may be going to do a run of these, exploring ideas around romance and dismantling them in whatever way occurs to me at the time. Especially what we’re supposed to do with hearts – which discernibly work better on the inside.)


I remind you of a car? A poem

I remind you of a car?

 

This machine goes from nought to five

Miles per hour only in emergencies

And never uphill.

Top speed of not much

Gets about five miles

To the pint of beer

Can do twenty miles in a day

But not if you want it to move afterwards.

May be long overdue for an MOT

Best not to dwell on the exhaust fumes.

Or the state of the upholstery.

Difficult to steer, but offroad handling superb.

Indicating things that have nothing

To do with direction of movement

May or may not have brain in gear

Has no idea what a clutch is

Much less how to use one as a metaphor

Handles wet surfaces

Well.

The built in satnav says

“I know exactly where we are”

And takes you to a wood

Full of creepy art instillations

And gets you lost, but not killed.

Has the freedom of the open road

In all weathers.

Does not require a paint job

Or rust removal

Or new tyres

But may need oiling now and then.

There are no brakes.

There are no safety belts

There is no cruise control.

But there is an ample boot

And finding a parking space is easy.

 

 

The title of course alludes to Professor Elemental’s You Remind Me of a Car – if you aren’t familiar with it, it goes a lot like this…


Poetry with Adam Horovitz

Adam Horovitz is one of my favourite poets. Some biases may have been created because I get to hear him read his work and I get to hang out with him, so I also know what a lovely human being he is. But even so, he’s a man with some incredible word-crafting skills. He can do things with language that leave me feeling like I’ve been buttered, or as though a stream has flowed over me, or that I have been transported to some other place and time. In terms of landscape writing, I’ve never seen anything else quite like his work for evoking place, and empathy with place.

You can read my review of Adam’s The Soil Never Sleeps here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/the-soil-never-sleeps-a-review/

And here’s Adam reading a poem from that collection

This kind of work does not happen quickly. It’s something I’ve become deeply aware of around my own creativity (and lack thereof) in recent years. The best writing takes time both to imagine and craft, and it is difficult to throw yourself heart and soul into creativity when you’re worrying about how to stay warm through the winter, or how to afford food. And if you’re doing other work to pay the bills, the headspace for the deep work is harder to find. Exhaustion and preoccupation does not make for good writing. Most creative people are struggling, and in that struggle we all lose the beauty that could have been. We lose opportunities for wonder and we limit creativity to those who are financially supported in other ways – for those who have the most privilege.

Adam has started a Patreon account, and if it works, it will mean more poetry videos like the one above. It will buy him time for the deeper levels of thinking and engagement that make this kind of poetry possible. A few dollars here and there will make a great deal of difference – because they always do. You can support Adam here – https://www.patreon.com/AdamHorovitz/posts

If you love what someone does, supporting them on any platform makes worlds of difference. The sums of money floating about may seem (to anyone on a normal wage) so small as to be irrelevant. Fifty dollars a month can be the difference between eating and eating well. I know creators who depend on patreon to pay key bills and who are able to create because of that. People who put a great deal of joy and beauty and worth into the world – much of it moving around online for free.

We tend to assume that quality leads to money and that money is a fair measure of a creator’s worth. According the UK’s Society of Authors, the average full time professional author earns about ten thousand pounds a year. That’s what success looks like in this industry. It looks exactly like poverty.

I also have a Patreon account and for me it has made the difference between giving up, and keeping going. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB


People on Pedestals – a poem

People on Pedestals

 

Putting people on pedestals (for the alliteration)

People on pedestals fear falling fatally

Pride puncturing plummets are promised.

Fear finding the fall too easy.

Feet of clay, people on pedestals

Afraid of awkward viewing angles

The upskirt shot, the up nose, up trouser.

Searing spotlights illuminate the people on pedestals

Searching, scathing spotlight scrutiny

Revealing, and the people on pedestals

Want not to be revealed, not really.

Want a little private, unobserved obscurity

Attention an attack and an artifice exposer.

The real risk that in looking up

Unvarnished truth unveiling.

Honest anxiety or narcissist needling?

People on pedestals who perpetrate poses

Market, mythologize, misrepresent to look good

Purchase the pedestal, polish it proudly

Help you put them up there, but then

When they fall off, incompetent, inept and over sold

It is your fault.

Your pedestal putting predilections

Selfishly setting them up for a stumbling

 

I like to look from on a level.